Friday, 12 February 2010

Do it for the money

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Anconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
This is from Atlas Shrugged, written in 1957. Half a century later, the idea that monetary transactions are somehow impure still persists.

Jamie Whyte has exposed this brilliantly in a recent article for the Cobden Centre entitled "Do it for the money":

Last year two police women (WPCs) were discovered to have a reciprocal child-minding arrangement. It was initially declared unlawful. Child minders who receive payment for their services must be registered with Ofsted. And receiving payment is not restricted to receiving money...

Public outrage at the absurdity of preventing friends from looking after each other’s children caused Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, to intervene. He declared that reciprocal childminding was not a kind of payment after all. The WPCs congratulated him on this small victory for common sense.

Which just goes to show that the common sense of WPCs cannot be relied upon. For, despite Mr Balls’ great powers, he cannot by mere proclamation stop reciprocal childminding from being a kind of payment. His decision simply exempts this barter payment from the tax that Ofsted’s rules and registration fees impose on childminding when other forms of payment are used.

If one of those WPCs quit her police job but offered to continue minding her friend’s child for £50 a day, Ofsted’s requirements would reimpose themselves. The child may be cared for by the same person in the same place, but the introduction of money to the deal would bring with it the state’s administrative and financial burdens. Mr Balls’ “common sense” intervention thus encourages a barter economy in childcare.

This is a silly thing to do. Because money is a better method of payment than barter. While the WPCs barter, they can consume the value of the childminding work they do only in the form of childminding for themselves. This means that they will restrict the amount of childminding they supply to the amount they want to consume. If they paid each other in cash, this restriction would disappear.

I thoroughly recommend the whole article.

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